Elizabeth Warren Wants Congress To Be Smarter About Tech... While Grossly Overstating Google & Facebook's Market Power

from the let's-start-at-home dept

So, this is good! Elizabeth Warren has announced that she supports bringing back the Office of Technology Assessment.

My anti-corruption plan reinstates and modernizes the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), strengthens congressional support agencies, and transitions congressional staffers to competitive salaries so that Congress can act based on the best expertise and information available.

[....]

Reinstate and modernize the Office of Technology Assessment. The OTA was originally led by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, with votes divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans. The new OTA should be led by a single, independent director to ensure that increased partisanship does not prevent members of Congress from receiving the information they need. The OTA should also have the authority to self-commission reports and be equipped to respond to short-term requests from Members, such as preparing for hearings, writing regulatory letters, and weighing in on agency rulemaking, rather than largely limiting its efforts to lengthy long-term reports. And the OTA should have in-house experts on interdisciplinary issue areas so that it can provide information and analysis on issues like climate change and technology consolidation that do not fit within a single issue area.

That all looks good. Indeed, we've been calling for Congress to reinstate and modernize the Office of Technology Assessment for many, many years, so it's good to see Warren apparently on board with this plan (though I'll note that she does not appear to be a co-sponsor of an existing bill to help modernize the OTA.

She frames it, somewhat accurately, as a way to get beyond Congress relying on lobbyists and those with dodgy information. And that would be a good thing. But it does seem a bit ironic that the same day she puts out this plan about no longer having tech policy driven by dodgy one-sided information, Alec Stapp gave a detailed explanation of how Warren, herself, was basing a key claim for why Google and Facebook should be broken up on very, very dodgy information.

A big part of Warren's argument was that Google and Facebook are so dominant on the internet today, that they basically control the flow of information. She claimed that 70% of all traffic went through those two companies.

More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook.

Stapp decided to dig into that number and found... that while the data is not clear, it's likely to actually be less than 20%. That's a pretty damn big difference. Like we've seen in other studies where "big" stats are extrapolated from a single report that doesn't cover what people pretend it covers and are limited by small sample sizes or not representative samples, the same thing seems to have happened here.

And, like those other studies, this one involves a game of telephone as well. The number appears to come from a study from a web analytics company, Parse.ly, from 2015, looking at traffic sent to just 400 news publishers. This is not a random sample. That study showed that Facebook sent 39% of the traffic to the publishers in the sample while Google sent 34%. That was picked up on by a freelance blogger who posted a story on his own website claiming "GOOG and FB now have direct influence over 70%+ of internet traffic" which is not at all what the Parse.ly study meant or implied. From there, bastion of fact checking, Newsweek, wrote a piece about who controls the internet and cites the freelancer's blog. And that brings us back around to Warren, who cites the Newsweek piece.

Voila. A fake statistic laundered through four sources.

Stapp then uses Sandvine's much more thorough research to suggest that perhaps Google and Facebook drive a bit less than 20% of internet traffic.

As for Google and Facebook? The report found that Google-operated sites receive 12.00 percent of total internet traffic while Facebook-controlled sites receive 7.79 percent. In other words, less than 20 percent of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook. While this statistic may be less eye-popping than the one trumpeted by Warren and other antitrust activists, it does have the virtue of being true.

So, yes, it would be good if tech policy was based on more realistic information -- and bringing back the OTA would be great. Then, perhaps, Elizabeth Warren wouldn't also be relying on dodgy stats passed around through bad reporting.

Filed Under: congress, elizabeth warren, monopoly power, ota
Companies: facebook, google


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:00pm

    The problem is that while Warren recognizes the problems with the current situation, she's still a victim to it: while she doesn't want to, she still has to depend on lobbyists to do much of her fact checking. Right now her telco and cable lobbyists are bent on breaking up Google and Facebook. And until now, nobody was doing the real legwork needed to show the real stats.

    This is one area where I'm all for larger government; bring back congressional aides that actually write laws while we're at it, and begin rejecting ALL lobbyist madlib bills. They should be written in-house and be based on properly researched data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    icon
    Zof (profile), 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:01pm

    We get it

    Tech sites and tech company surrogates hate Warren. She wants to take away your unchecked power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:36pm

      Re: We get it

      You post regularly on this site and your comments are rarely flagged unlike some other commenters yet you somehow think Techdirt has unchecked power? I think you might have misunderstood the articles here and there impact on the world. Or is your point that this is a tech company surrogate somehow? Either way, I will continue to visit here and read the articles and will never assume an agenda against people who clearly don't understand what they are calling for.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 7:01am

        Re: Re: We get it

        "You post regularly on this site and your comments are rarely flagged unlike some other commenters..."

        Not strictly speaking true anymore. Zof has started getting flagged almost as quickly as Blue/Baghdad Bob.
        The difference is, Zof occasionally comes up with a reasonable comment which doesn't get flagged, where old OOTB can't pound out three words in a row without coming out as irrational, inflammatory, and incomprehensible.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:49pm

      Re: We get it

      She wants to take away your unchecked power.

      So now Zof claims that TD has unchecked power! He heard it at InfoWars - must be true.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:53pm

      Re: We get it you refuse to flush

      Looks like someone left another zof floating.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 5:06pm

      Re: We get it

      Since you used the work 'tech' twice, are you also implying TD (as per your normal MO)?

      If, so I'd like to point out that TD was actually encouraging some of her actions. They even included logical arguments for why some of her actions were actually laudable.

      I am not exactly an expert on all human behavior ever., but I'm pretty sure that's not quite what hatred looks like.

      Maybe try again?

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    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 8:59am

      Re: We get it

      Aren’t they keeping each other in check? I mean, we have evidence that Google and Facebook combined only receive about 20% of the Internet’s traffic, and they each have competitors in their main business (Bing and DuckDuckGo for Google and Twitter and MySpace (sorta) for Facebook). I’m not seeing unchecked power here.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:18pm

    "The new OTA should be led by a single, independent director to ensure that increased partisanship does not prevent members of Congress from receiving the information they need."

    This kinda seems like a self-defeating statement. "Independent" is really in the eye of the beholder (and when I say that, I mean that it doesn't matter what this person says the "other side" will scream "partisanship" at the top of their lungs) and it strikes me that its easier to cash-compromise one person then a group.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:21pm

    But she read it on MSM, so it has to be true, right?

    So in 10 years when all MSM will be owned by Murdoch, will people start believing what they read on random internet sites? Or will the majority of the people fall for the crafted lies of billionaires?

    With the FCC working to gut media consolidation rules, soon you too will have "local" news channels spewing about their "local values" and "community involvement" (and it will be the exact same speech that 100's of other so called local broadcasters will be spewing to 'boil the frogs slowly' so to speak).

    Don't believe the hype, get your tinfoil now

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    • icon
      nasch (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 6:56pm

      Re: But she read it on MSM, so it has to be true, right?

      With the FCC working to gut media consolidation rules, soon you too will have "local" news channels spewing about their "local values" and "community involvement" (and it will be the exact same speech that 100's of other so called local broadcasters will be spewing to 'boil the frogs slowly' so to speak).

      We're already there.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvtNyOzGogc

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 5:45pm

    so, 1 in 5 websites visited are facebook or google. That's fucking huge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Oct 2019 @ 5:53pm

      Re:

      so, 1 in 5 websites visited are facebook or google. That's fucking huge.

      Yes! It is. And it's valid to talk about that. But claiming that Google and Facebook control 70% of traffic... is bogus.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        GS (profile), 1 Oct 2019 @ 6:53pm

        Re: Re:

        If one in five people visit your website then link to other websites you can control most of the traffic by filtering what those people see on your website. If you was a company lean heavily to the left and you want people to only see points of view on the left you will by default hide and suppress political viewpoints that oppose your own. that controls the narrative. that controls what people see.

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        • icon
          Gary (profile), 1 Oct 2019 @ 7:13pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          that controls the narrative

          So are you saying that the government needs to step in and filter the most popular websites?

          Because I don't see any other outcome.

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 12:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That's what I love about these guys. They whine about people "controlling the narrative", but seem to have zero original thought outside the talking points rabbited by right-wing echo chambers. They complain about site having political bias, but the only alternatives they come up with are far more extremely biased. They whine about government control, but have demands that can only be enforced by government.

            The lack of self awareness is always intriguing.

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            • icon
              Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 6:11am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Okay, flip that around: are self-aware people better at thinking for themselves? In that case, we should be pushing that alongside critical thinking.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 9:09pm

          Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

          If you was a company lean heavily to the right. You’d be totally ok with it because “that’s the free market at work.”

          Bro you are very, very bad at this game. Quit while you’re behind, and have only minimally embarrassed yourself.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            JoeCool (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 5:23am

            Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

            Most of these folks fall under the old saying, "Better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." :D

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            GS (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 5:47am

            Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

            No I wouldn't be okay with that. The only thing that should be filtering my search results is what I put in not what Google wants me to see based on their political bias.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 6:05am

              Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

              "The only thing that should be filtering my search results is what I put in not what Google wants me to see"

              So, you don't actually want them to work as a search engine?

              The problem with your statement is that too many nutters think that factual evidence is some kind of political bias. If someone's searching for vaccine info, for example, there will be whiners no matter if they return medical advice, scientific evidence of anti-vaxx nutter blogs.

              As usual the only way to change this is to use another search engine, not to whine that you can't join the party with everybody else because your fringe political beliefs have turned you into a whiny infant.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 8:18am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

                "As usual the only way to change this is to use another search engine"

                Or learn how to craft search terms such that the algorithm will return what you seek. Google used to be much better at providing methods of accomplishing this.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  bhull242 (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 9:04am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

                  Google used to be much better at providing methods of accomplishing this.

                  In what way was Google better at that before than they are now?

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                  • icon
                    Gary (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 9:18am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

                    In what way was Google better at that before than they are now?

                    They used to index torrents and the pirate bay much better, but those results have been censored now. :)

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                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 11:47am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

                    Google used to have the capability to recognize and use special characters in the limiting of search results.

                    For example, one could use the plus sign to indicate additional search terms, that was removed some time ago and they said to use quotation marks instead but that produces different results.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      bhull242 (profile), 7 Oct 2019 @ 5:12pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

                      I don’t know anything about that. That must’ve been a change that occurred before I started using Google regularly.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 6:55am

              Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

              "The only thing that should be filtering my search results is what I put in not what Google wants me to see based on their political bias."

              What would you do with the "unfiltered" results?
              Considering that estimates show there are presently over a billion websites, how would you ever find what you are looking for?
              Oh - I know ... filter the results!!!!!
              Now that's Brilliant!

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Toom1275 (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 8:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Have you tried digging up yet?

              what Google wants me to see based on their political bias.

              [Asserts facts not in evidence]

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 11:41am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Is this what infowars & breitbart do .. you know, to control the narrative.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      "so, 1 in 5 websites visited are facebook or google. That's fucking huge."

      ...and the norm, in the US and worldwide.

      Go google the "open markets institute report". If anything, a 20% market share is healthier than what you'd expect to see.

      I'm conflicted over google's market dominance but looking back at what they've done to break up monopolies - like when the iPhone market dropped from being the one and only real smartphone to just becoming another flavor in a plethora of models launched by 20+ reliable competitors, all thanks to android - I'm still inclined to view Google as a net positive. For now.

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  • icon
    GS (profile), 1 Oct 2019 @ 6:56pm

    Not that any of what she says matters because she has zero chance of winning the election. Liberals, whether you like it or not Joe Biden will be your nominee. Old Guard big money Democrats will not let anyone else become the nominee.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Oct 2019 @ 7:28pm

      she has zero chance of winning the election

      Counterpoint: Lots of people said the same thing about Donald Trump during his campaign.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 6:12am

        Re:

        And Barack Obama came out of nowhere; everyone expected Hillary to win in 2008.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Glen, 2 Oct 2019 @ 7:43am

          Re: Re:

          I think the same could have been said for Bill Clinton also.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 7:44am

          Re: Re:

          "And Barack Obama came out of nowhere; everyone expected Hillary to win in 2008."

          All too true. American elections are...odd. Anywhere else what you see in the polls will often at least resemble what you'll get, but in the US voter participation is so low and 80% of it so predictable the elections will be carried by a very small proportion of voters in states with sufficiently small populations to be disproportionately represented in the electoral college.

          In the US, in other words, you end up with a poll coming up with "Everyone expects Hillary to win" and then in response a few trailer parks full of white trash bigots march on the polls and carry the entire election for Trump.

          The previous examples we have on times where small hordes of enthusiastic and ignorant yokels carry the election include "at the end of the weimar republic" and "the yeltzin era". You sort of know what comes out on top WILL be an inflammatory demagogue.

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 8:26am

            Re: Re: Re:

            "everyone expected Hillary to win in 2008."

            "Trump"

            Wrong election. While your points are valid, the electoral college had nothing to do with the 2008 election. Clinton lost the primary, which she was generally expected to win but didn't count on Obama's genuinely effective grassroots campaign. That wasn't yokels or ignorance, it was most people not being aware of Obama before the campaign, so assuming Clinton would be next up.

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            • icon
              bhull242 (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 9:08am

              Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Given that we’re talking about whether Warren or Biden will be the Democrats’ nominee, and the fact that no one expected Trump to win his party’s nomination, either, aren’t we all talking about primaries here?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 3:26am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Yep. And whoever wins the primary of their respective parties AND has the strongest lead generally tends to win. In 2008, any Dem would have won because Dubya had fouled things up so badly, it was a shoe-in.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 7:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "While your points are valid, the electoral college had nothing to do with the 2008 election."

              Yeah, my mistake.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 12:01pm

        Re:

        Donald trump just has his luck stat almost almost maxed “i actually did a run back in oblivion back in the day oh god that attribute” to offset his stupid so much that even incompetence can’t stop him if he was being doing things out of malice.

        Warren does not have that going for her.😐

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        • icon
          Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 3:28am

          Re: Re:

          She's generally progressive and has the political experience and presumably the contacts to make a presidency work. If she wins the primaries, then the election, expect a broadly progressive regime with the neocons pushed back to the fringes where they belong.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 7:01pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            If she wins the primaries, then the election, expect a broadly progressive regime with the neocons pushed back to the fringes where they belong.

            If she wins the election but the Republicans keep the Senate, I'm expecting basically nothing to happen in Washington for at least the following two years.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 9:11pm

      Re:

      I for one can’t wait for your apology and admission of wrongness once the primary’s are settled.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 6:57am

      Re:

      Wishful thinking of the GOP at this point I imagine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 7:16am

      Re:

      "Liberals, whether you like it or not Joe Biden will be your nominee."

      That depends on whether his campaign advisors feel liberals make up enough of the swing voters to carry him in an election.

      Biden is a weatherwane, mainly. He is currently electable simply because he is a comfortable choice disinclined to rock very many boats.

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      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 9:26am

        His status as a centrist is a double-edged sword, though. Yes, he represents a comfort, a familiarity of the days before Trump and his administration figuratively shat upon America. But an attempted reset to “status quo pre-Trump” won’t go over well with a substantial number of voters. Besides, income inequality and global climate change both make a return to “yesteryear” impossible. And with ideas such as the Green New Deal and wealth taxes both gaining traction, a centrist like Biden — someone who genuinely believes in bipartisanship at a time when Republicans have all but abandoned democracy — offers nothing new or exciting.

        And yeah, I can see how “nothing new or exciting” could appeal to centrist voters. That kind of comfort — a kind of “boring” politics — seems like a paradise compared to everything about politics right now. But we can’t go backwards in time, nor can we stand still. We must move forward because the status quo can’t last forever.

        The sad thing is, Trump understands that idea…well, in some fashion, at least. He won in 2016 partly because he threatened the status quo. And while the country will be worse off after he leaves office than it was when he entered office, the pre-Trump status quo is gone for good. Sanders and Warren understand the need to move forward. Biden increasingly acts like he doesn’t.

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        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 8:05am

          Re:

          Biden's only claim to be anything other than a political nonentity is his vice presidency under Obama. And that appointment was mainly meant to present the image that having a young energetic representative of a minority ethnicity as president would be counterbalanced by him being chained to a placid sheep whose most outstanding qualities were placidity and conformity.

          "Nothing New Here" sums Biden up in a nutshell.

          And no matter how you slice it what will be demanded by voters in a post-Trump era will be "Fix This Mess Already".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 3:30am

        Re: Re:

        Confirmed correct. If anything, he'd be an Obama clone, but with more gaffes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 8:07am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Confirmed correct. If anything, he'd be an Obama clone, but with more gaffes."

          ...which was going at a fraction of the speed of the original and was incapable of original thought.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 11:50am

      Re:

      "Not that any of what she says matters"

      idk, but it is possible that what she says matters more than what you say.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 7:26pm

    I still don't understand why everything in America must be partisan or bipartisan. If the only way you can make something 'fair' is by making it bipartisan, that's not fairness. That's just an adversarial us vs. them system that'll never agree or get anything done. They're not fighting for the public or the best outcome - they're fighting for whatever their party's position is.

    Try making a truly independent board of advisory instead, that is not beholden to whatever polictical party is in power.

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 8:27pm

    Mike Masnick defends the worst turds in Big Business, and barely gets paid minimum wage. Most amusing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 9:12pm

      Re:

      Which is more than you get paid to shit yourself here. So idiots in their mothers basements shouldn’t be little bitches on the Internet. Or however that saying goes bro.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 10:22pm

      Re:

      How's that Lincoln Bandlow defense fund coming along bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 2 Oct 2019 @ 3:22am

    Controlling the narrative

    If content moderation at scale is impossible, the last thing we want to do is concentrate moderating power in a media monoculture or even an oligoculture controlled by a few organizations like Google and Facebook. We already see how that concentration of power plays out in media and ISPs.

    "Controlling the narrative" isn't the only problem with Google and Facebook. Google in particular is a highly integrated vertical monopoly in their main profit spaces. Google runs a slew of advertising-related domains like google-analytics,google syndication and doubleclick. They are by no means a monopoly in advertising, but when you combine this presence with their dominance in search and video on demand, they have unprecedented power as a media company.

    I've always been against the consolidation of media production with the delivery. For example, in the ISP space, this creates incentives to violate net neutrality as Comcast and AT&T-owned companies get preference for bandwidth consumption on their delivery networks. The same principle applies to Google's advertising and media delivery.

    I'm still working out what an arms-length relationship between Google's components could look like. Would search be kept separate from user analytics? Would ad analytics be kept separate from ad delivery? The one thing that definitely needs to happen (IMO) is Youtube and google play need to be separate from the advertising and search business. Youtube should be able to display ads from sources other than Google's delivery channel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 9:36am

      Re: Controlling the narrative

      YouTube doesn’t make a profit, and it is too interwoven with the advertising part of Google to make it plausible to spin off. But even if you did, it would almost certainly go bankrupt or made worse for the sake of profitability if it’s on its own.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 4:24am

    If you change 'traffic' to 'searches', she isn't that far off. A quick search shows that Google gets about 63% of all searches. Search results are where you can really influence what folks see. And we know Google and others modify search results based on magic formulas kept locked in a safe next to the Coke formula and the Colonel's famous recipe.

    Porn out of favor? Porn results get down ranked. Anti-vax a problem, down rank the results. Want to help a certain politician or group? Change the results.

    Try to force Google and other search engines to revel the magic behind the curtain, good luck.

    Don't see how yet another government agency will help much. Those legi-critters that want to learn about a tech issue will do the research. The others won't and yet another government issued report won't change that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 6:02am

      Re:

      "If you change 'traffic' to 'searches', she isn't that far off."

      Yes, if you change what she's talking about then she's suddenly right. That doesn't change how wrong the original claim was.

      "Search results are where you can really influence what folks see"

      If people have a problem with that, they can easily change search engines.

      "Porn out of favor? Porn results get down ranked."

      Or, in reality, Google offer safesearch so that people can choose whether or n ot to see it. It's politicians who try to force them to block it for everybody, not Google.

      "Want to help a certain politician or group? Change the results."

      Which is still as illegal as it is in any other kind of business.

      "Try to force Google and other search engines to revel the magic behind the curtain, good luck."

      Why should they? Are people trying to force any other company to reveal trade secrets because they're too popular, or does it magically become necessary when you're a search engine for some reason?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tom (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 12:52pm

        Re: Re:

        "Yes, if you change what she's talking about then she's suddenly right. That doesn't change how wrong the original claim was."

        If she said what she meant, then sure, her numbers are fubar. But as it is likely she isn't a tech knowledge powerhouse, confusing total traffic with search result traffic would be an easy mistake to make.

        '
        "Want to help a certain politician or group? Change the results."

        Which is still as illegal as it is in any other kind of business.'

        Why would it be illegal? Private company offering a free service protected by layers of TOS, etc. that say things like use at own risk, not liable for damages, etc. Plus they could probably argue that search results are some type of speech protected by the 1st amendment.

        '
        "Try to force Google and other search engines to revel the magic behind the curtain, good luck."

        Why should they? Are people trying to force any other company to reveal trade secrets because they're too popular, or does it magically become necessary when you're a search engine for some reason?'

        Never said they should.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 1:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "If she said what she meant, then sure"

          Sorry, if someone's proposing things like this, I expect them to at least know the basics of the facts they're using to justify it. Whichever way you spin it, she was wrong.

          "Private company offering a free service protected by layers of TOS, etc. that say things like use at own risk, not liable for damages, etc"

          Aren't there specific laws against TV/radio/billboards providing free ads for one candidate over another? I'm no expert on US law, but in most places there's laws against such things, for very good reason.

          "Never said they should"

          Then what did you mean with your comment about getting the to reveal their trade secrets?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 7:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Aren't there specific laws against TV/radio/billboards providing free ads for one candidate over another?

            I think there are in broadcast, as part of the spectrum licenses. But as far as I know there is no law stopping Google from skewing search results to favor one politician over another.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Andrew D. Todd, 2 Oct 2019 @ 9:20am

      Call The ISP's Bluff.

      Let's not waste energy defending Google against accusations, true or false. Let's start from two axioms: 1) No man is good enough to be another man's master. 2) Power corrupts. We find means to eliminate concentrations of power, because they are concentrations of power.

      Now, as to Google Seach, every browser should have a built-in personal meta-search engine. A meta-search engine takes a query from the user, distributes it to one or more search engines, gets the results back, validates and consolidates them, and displays them to the user.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metasearch_engine

      If we build a meta-search engine into the browser, is is as trustworthy and under the user's control as the browser itself, or, indeed, the operating system.

      I don't suppose Elizabeth Warren has the programming skill to write a meta-serch engine. Donald Trump, of course, has neither the skill nor the intelligence. However, if the ISP's were really concerned with Google's dominance, they could easily commission someone to produce and Open-Source-Public-Domain meta-search engine.


      I have been out of contact with Techdirt for a bit over a year. At the end of July, 2018, I had a heart attack, followed by a stroke. I spent three of the following five months in the hospital (three admissions), and then there was a period when I was strictly forbidden to pick up a computer box. When hardware broke down, I was not able to repair it in the ordinary way. My sister got me an iPhone to use while I was in the hospital. The e-mail address is:

      andrew2david2todd@iCloud.com.

      I attempted to use the iPhone to post on Techdirt, but ran into the spam filter. However, I have now gotten my old Mozilla Seamonkey profile working on a new Linux machine (Fedora 30).

      I have spent most of the last year doing physical therapy. Just at present, that means walking, on the order of five miles a day, up and down a ten percent grade. My strength is quite good-- I apparently lost weight faster than I lost muscle mass-- but I still have difficulties with coordination. In particular, these in involve me in difficulties in negotiating right-of-way with automobiles driven by strangers.

      I have also produced a program (public domain, of course) to translate WordStar word processor files into HTML, which presently runs to about 2500 lines of C code. The young ladies who look after me were rather insistent on finding me some proper work, at the mental level, as well as the physical level.

      Andrew D. Todd 1249 Pineview Dr., Apt 1 Morgantown, WV 26505 (formerly adtodd@mail.wvnet.edu, now a_d_todd@rowboats-sd-ca.com)

      http://rowboats-sd-ca.com/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 3 Oct 2019 @ 7:09pm

        Re: Call The ISP's Bluff.

        I have been out of contact with Techdirt for a bit over a year.

        Well get ready to be accused of astroturfing (and welcome back).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 8:57am

    These socialists make the tea party look like a good thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Oct 2019 @ 11:57am

    No no, this was perfect

    The very day she proposed bringing back a government group that's meant to fact-check and provide accurate information she also released a statement showing how badly it was needed, adding even more weight to the first statements.

    She couldn't have done it better if she tried, and all it took was a tiny little ding to her credibility by making a demonstrably flawed statement showing her ignorance/gullibility.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2019 @ 12:44pm

    More relevent metrics of monopoly market power

    Your metrics are just as cherry picked and irrelevant to market power as hers...

    How do you measure what traffic 'goes through' them, and why does that even matter? Does it count as 'going through' when FB loads a 'like' button to your computer from an unrelated page? How about Google analytics on a non google page? TD has both those things...like most other sites... you go to these sites, and your computer talks to fb and googs who scrape every bit of data your system is willing to give out....even though you never meant to visit FB or googs- and yet I'm pretty sure those interactions DON'T count as 'going through' in this metric; because you're technically going TO them from another site- they're benefiting either way though.... If the topic is market power and monopolistic practices, then why shouldn't these things be considered? -what exactly makes them not represent a form of 'market power'? What makes them beyond consideration for assessing monopolistic practices? Why should 'only' browsing origin and 'direct influence' be counted- while completely ignoring near ubiquitous presence at destinations and the data mining that enables?

    This sort of narrow megacorp/panopticon friendly perspective shaping feels like Think Tank talking point manipulation... It's grotesque false framing of the topic.

    The default on a modern device is that you have to interact with these companies, even if you consciously choose to deliberately avoid them. -why on earth should that not be considered when attempting to measure market power and monopoly practices?

    How much traffic is 'monitored/touched' is a much more sensible measure... On that, her figure is WAY LOW, and anyone can figure that out, just by using no-script and looking for google analytics and facebook like buttons.

    I'd estimate it's over 90% when considering both... Don't take anyone's word for it= Try it yourself. See how many sites you interact with that DON'T have FB like buttons or google analytics. How much of the internet can you actually use without interacting with these companies? Throw in the rest of the big tech megacorps- see the problem yet?

    Monopolies that have been addressed in the past are utterly meek in comparison to the consolidated power and influence of modern tech.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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